Once upon a time, before foreign travel became affordable, holidaying at home was the norm. In the UK, families would flock to holiday camps for ‘organised fun’. With a long list of camp rules to comply with, those holidays must have felt a bit like doing National Service. I can remember my granddad driving to Ayr in the 1970s to rescue my auntie, uncle and wee cuz from a Butlin’s holiday. That covert escape mission to Ayrshire became the stuff of legend in my family. We still laugh about it.
Today, the holiday camp, or holiday village has been reinvented. ‘Staycations’ are all the rage, and holidaymakers are shunning foreign trips for a spot of R&R closer to home.
When Argyll Holidays invited me to spend the weekend at their Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village, I jumped at the chance. Unlike some family members, I have happy memories of holidays spent in caravans and chalets at exotic destinations like Burntisland, or Scarborough if we went long-haul.
These days I crave tranquility and remote corners. Would I end up plotting an Auntie Val & Co type escape from Drimsynie or would I love it?
Escape from to Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village
After a scenic drive we arrived at the Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village in Argyll. With Loch Goil in front of us, the Argyll Forest Park behind us, and snow-capped mountains on either side, the location was idyllic.
There’s a varied choice of accommodation at Drimsynie, including village inn, hotel, caravan and lodge. We couldn’t wait to see our digs.
A friendly welcome was received at check-in and the boy was presented with a goodie bag – he was well chuffed. We left, clutching our accommodation key, and Rover Passes which gave us access to a range of fun activities. The crazy golf course caught our eye. We’re partial to the odd round of crazy golf, although it usually descends into bitter rivalry.
Our lodge – Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village
Our home for the weekend was a two bedroom ‘Osprey Lodge’ with hot tub – yippee. The lodges at Drimsynie are located in a quiet corner of the holiday village, close to the on-site leisure facilities, bars and restaurants.
Inside, we had a spacious L-shaped lounge/dining room, galley kitchen, and shower room downstairs.
Upstairs, was an en-suite master bedroom with loch view, plus a twin room with forest view.
The decor and furnishings throughout the lodge were fresh and modern.
Outside, an enclosed decking area with hot tub overlooked the loch. I had a feeling we were going to love Drimsynie.
The boy dug into his goodie bag and found a bowl, towel, poo bags and biscuits. He choked down two biscuits, and was good to go.
Lunch at the Goil Inn
We followed a footpath from Drimsynie to Lochgoilhead in search of lunch. Lochgoilhead is a small village with a church, post office and inn.
The menu outside the Goil Inn told us all we needed to know. They served soup and sandwiches. Inside, it was cosy and friendly, with a relaxed, village inn ambiance.
The boy was welcomed with a pat on the head, water and more biscuits. He’d look like a little Buddha by the time we left Argyll if I didn’t curb his biscuit consumption.
Soup and sandwiches eaten, it was time to explore. Sadly, the blue skies which had welcomed our arrival were gone. It was raining.
Things to see and do in Argyll
Enjoy a walk in Puck’s Glen
Puck’s Glen is a 40 minute drive from Lochgoilhead. There you’ll find two walking trails set in a landscape that could easily be home to wood nymphs, fairies and sprites.
Named after Puck from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ the glen was transformed into a magical, green paradise after philanthropist James Duncan bought the Benmore Estate in 1870 and carried out extensive tree planting.
It’s the perfect place to shelter from rain, and escape grey skies on a yucky day. It’s incredibly green inside, and can lift the foulest of foul weather moods. The boy was in sniffing heaven.
We wandered along narrow paths, past tumbling waterfalls, over wooden bridges and up several flights of stairs. It didn’t take us long to become disorientated aka lost.
When the mischievous sprites of Puck’s Glen finally pointed us in the direction of the car park, we marched there at a bracing pace, to avoid further aimless wandering.
Relaxing under the stars
Back at Drimsynie the rain had stopped, and golden hour was casting a warm glow on the hills. Buoyed by the cessation of rain we cracked open a bottle of fizz and hopped in the hot tub. The boy pottered around on the decking as we enjoyed our al fresco fizz.
We blethered (chatted enthusiastically) our way through the bottle, watching as stars started to appear above us. It was mesmerising to watch – like lots of tiny lights being switched on, one by one.
More things to see and do in Argyll
After our new favourite breakfast of porridge with a generous dod of jam, we were ready for the day ahead. Outside, a steady drizzle was falling.
The Tinker’s Heart, Loch Fyne
Our first stop of the day was the Tinker’s Heart. The heart was an important meeting place for travelling people, and records show that wedding ceremonies and christenings were performed there. The origins of the heart are not certain, but there’s a theory that it’s a memorial to members of the travelling community who lost their lives fighting for the Jacobite cause during the 1745 rising.
After much campaigning to protect the site, Historic Environment Scotland finally gave it protected status in 2015.
It’s a simple site but I love it. It’s good to known that those 26 little quartz stones will survive for generations to come.
Kilmartin Glen, Kilmartin Stones
Leaving the Tinker’s Heart we followed the road round the west side of Loch Fyne, arriving in Kilmartin Glen an hour later.
Kilmartin Glen is the historic heart of Argyll, and the stuff of dreams for history geeks. I was so excited I pretty much sprinted into Kilmartin churchyard when we arrived in the village. I’ve been visiting Kilmartin for over 20 years, but seeing medieval knights carved on grave slabs never gets boring. The Kilmartin Stones, some of which date to the 1200s are amongst the finest in Scotland. Proud warriors, swords, holy men, hunting dogs and intricate Celtic knotwork – they’re amazing.
Exposed to the elements in the churchyard lie more remarkable stones, in the Poltalloch Enclosure. These stones mark the graves of members of the Malcolm Family, who owned the nearby Poltalloch Estate. The West Highland White Terrier was once known as the Poltalloch Terrier, and the 16th Laird of Poltalloch is credited with creating the modern breed. The Wee White Dug was walking amongst his ancestral masters.
Inside the church are two fragile stone crosses. One dates to the 1200s and depicts Christ on the cross. The other is known as the Kilmartin Cross. It’s carved with a beautiful Celtic design and dates to around 900 AD. It’s staggering to think that it’s survived so long.
Outside, the boy posed beside a replica of a monk’s cell or beehive hut, but decided that a life of cramped, confinement wasn’t for him.
Kimartin Glen, Ancient cairns and standing stones
Glebe Cairn is the first in a linear scattering of ancient monuments. It lies in a field behind the church.
Two stone graves or cists were discovered beneath the Bronze Age cairn. The remains of a jet necklace in one of the graves suggests it was the final resting place of an important female.
Further down the glen you can unleash your inner Indiana Jones by climbing inside Nether Largie North Cairn.
I made Mr G climb in first, as climbing into graves gives me a claustrophobic, feeling of dread.
Next, came Nether Largie Mid Cairn. 4,000 years ago, two important people were laid to rest in the cairn.
Nether Largie South Cairn was the boy’s favourite. He peered inside burial cists like a canine archaeologist.
Excavations at this site unearthed a treasure trove of human bones, pottery, flints and arrowheads.
We continued our walk through the glen, and were so immersed in history that we hadn’t even noticed it had stopped raining.
Cairns made way for Neolithic monoliths. These were the first standing stones I visited in Scotland. I can still remember seeing them for the first time in 1996 and being bowled over by how unbelievably old they were.
I briefly took the boy’s lead off to snap a few quick photos of him posing beside the stones. “Good boy. Look at Mum. Staaaaaaaay” I urged in the silly, high-pitched voice I reserve for my negotiations with him.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you a rare glimpse into life behind the scenes with the Philistine aka The Wee White Dug.
When we reached the stone circles and burial cists at Temple Wood (my least favourite of the Kilmartin monuments), we turned and retraced our steps back to the village.
Kilmartin Glen, Dunadd Fort
Dunadd was our final stop of the day. I LOVE Dunadd. It’s my favourite historic site in all of Scotland.
The small, rocky hill is a hugely, significant place. An Iron Age fort once stood there, and traces of the outer wall and well still survive.
The final ascent to the summit of Dunadd passes through a narrow corridor of rock. It’s really atmospheric, and makes the ancient fort easy to imagine.
That’s not even the best bit, that lies just shy of the summit.
Carved on a slab of stone is a human footprint, a Pictish boar and some Ogham script. Behind the rock is a perfectly carved stone bowl.
Not only was Dunadd once home to an Iron Age fort, it’s also where the Gaelic speaking kings of Dàl Riata were inaugurated. By placing their foot in the carved footprint, the forefathers of modern Scotland wedded themselves to their kingdom.
And their shoe size? Pretty much the same as my dinky, UK size 4.
There was a stiff breeze blowing, but not to be outdone the boy also tried his foot for size. Meet King Casper of the Windy Whiskers, ruler of the ancient kingdom of Dàl Riata.
Being a delicate flower, Mr G quickly tired of being battered by wind.
I wasn’t about to leave my favourite place quite yet, so I headed to the summit to enjoy the view and soak up the magic of the place for a while longer.
Why does it always rain on me?
Back at Drimsynie, we dined on pizza and champagne. The annual Six Nations rugby tournament was in full swing, and Mr G sat glued to the TV.
Outside, it was miserable and our hot tub looked like it would sit unused. Yet I’d donned a swimsuit at Iceland’s Blue Lagoon on a day far worse than this. Being Scottish I’m used to turning ‘blue with cauld’ Swimsuit on, I jumped into the hot tub like an Olympic hurdler.
Immersed chin deep in hot water, wind and rain whipped at my ears and soaked my face. The Travis song ‘Why does it always rain on me?’ played on a loop in my head, but it was actually really nice to grab thirty minutes of ‘me’ time.
Mr G who has a real aversion to cold looked at me from inside, shaking his head. Even my loyal wee dug stayed indoors and left me to it.
Drimsynie Village Holiday Resort – the verdict
The next morning we woke to more rain and mist. Any hopes of a crazy golf grudge match before we left Drimsynie, were dashed.
It’d been a dreich weekend, but the weather hadn’t hampered our efforts to explore Argyll. We’d seen loads, but also managed to spend plenty of time relaxing at our lodge.
We’d really enjoyed our stay. Drimsynie offers the best of both worlds, making it the ideal place to enjoy a relaxing break, or an activity packed adventure. It’s also a fabulous base for exploring Argyll.
Thanks to Argyll Holidays for inviting us to spend a weekend at their Drimsynie Estate Holiday Village. Although our accommodation was provided on a complimentary basis all opinions are my own.
Until next time …..